I remember watching more than one movie when I was a kid that depicted an adult woman initiating an adolescent boy into the ways of sex. Usually, the scenario included a nerdy and relationally insecure kid somehow meeting an adult woman who would take him under her wing romantically and sexually-speaking (Remember Weird Science, anyone?).
For me as a teen guy, I could resonate with these boys on the screen and the mix of insecurity, social pressure, sexual desire, and lack of romantic know-how they experienced. So the idea of an attractive adult woman noticing and desiring them spoke powerfully to my own heart.
But one thing each of these movies ignored—and that I certainly missed at the time—is that they were depicting a form of sexual abuse.
Likewise, many adult men also don’t recognize abuse they experienced when they think back on their own stories. I think part of the reason for this is that the cultural story-lines surrounding men and sex often cloud the real impact sexual violations have on boys, teen guys, and even adult men.
So when men use words like “weird” or “confusing” to describe sexual situations they encountered as kids, it may be because they simply don’t know—or have a hard time accepting—that what happened to them was abuse.
According to research cited by NCVC (National Center for Victims of Crime), one in twenty boys have been the victims of child sexual abuse, and that self-report studies indicate that up to 10% of men recall being sexually abused or assaulted as a child. (It’s also important to note that most experts agree that all sexual abuse and assault for both males and females is under-reported.)
Alternatively, men may believe that what happened to them was an enviable thing. They may look at what happened to them as “every young guy’s dream.” But this doesn’t tell the whole story. Any time a kid is used, manipulated, or taken advantage of sexually by an adult, damage is done.
I’ve talked to guys with early sexual experiences who bring up that they agreed to, wanted, or even pursued sex with an adult. This may be so, but it doesn’t remove that they were violated by the adult because they were a kid and the adult had a responsibility to protect them, not to take advantage of their youth. Even our courts recognize this, which is why age of consent laws are in place in all fifty states, making it illegal for adults to engage sexually with minors.
If you still are not convinced, one illustration worth considering is this: If a high school freshman boy were to ask an adult woman for vodka, it wouldn’t matter that it was the boy asking and not the woman offering, and it wouldn’t matter how much the boy wanted to the alcohol. Likewise, if it was the woman who invited the boy to drink vodka with her, it wouldn’t matter if the boy said yes, nor if he enjoyed getting drunk, nor if he came back for more the next day. The responsibility rests with the adult.
Sex is one of the most valuable and vulnerable aspects of life, and so for kids and adults alike, it is meant to be treated as sacred. When it’s not, damage is done.
Men, as you think back on your childhood and young adulthood, resist the urge to ignore or minimize early sexual experiences, and don’t ignore how those experiences may be playing into your relationships and your sexual journey today.
Instead, can I invite you to look back at your early sexual exposures and experiences with a posture of care and concern for the younger you? You are worth it.
Whether you’re a man or woman, if our team at Regeneration can help, please let us know.
“Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them. For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to ones like this.” – Jesus (Matthew 19:14)
Question: What are some of the factors you think may make it difficult for men to acknowledge or reflect on how early sexual experiences may have harmed them?
Want to hear more this week? Check out the latest Becoming Whole podcast; “That was Weird” – A Conversation for Men